Most God fearing people think of envy as a deadly sin, a mortal blotch on your soul for St. Peter to see on your resume when you’re trying to get that sweet champagne supermodel pool boy gig in Heaven. Not me.
It’s been the reason why I’ve accomplished what I have, reached the plateau I’ve climbed and achieved the goals I’ve set for myself. Envy has been a motivator. It wakes me up every morning with a cold bucket of water, points a finger in my face and screams like Sgt. Hartman from Full Metal Jacket after he catches Gomer Pyle at a Hooters in a wing eating championship.
“What is your major malfunction, numb nuts?” he screams as I’m wiping the combination of sleep and Marine spittle out of my eyes. “Don’t you want to be successful? Don’t you want to be somebody? Everybody else is somebody while you’re practicing to be dead right now! You’re nothing but a lowlife scum-sucking parasite with syphilis that only sucks the life out of other people just to prolong your weak pathetic existence! You make me want to punch a baby! Ahhhhh!”
You can guess where it goes from there. I bolt out of bed and skip my morning pee because I’ve done it already. I brush my teeth with visions of more successful people swirling around my head like a mobius strip and use their success as fuel to further myself. I’m a green Hummer that runs on pure unleaded hatred and only needs a fill up once a day.
Case in point, W. Bruce Cameron. He is a syndicated columnist, writer and author, best known for his book and TV show “8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter” and its sequels “8 Simple Rules for Boinking My Teenage Daughter,” “8 Simple Rules For Ruining the Life of My Teenage Daughter” and “8 Simple Rules For Getting My Teenage Daughter Pregnant and Then Getting Your Ass Ripped Off and Beaten to Death with by Me, Your Future Father-In-Law…Daddy.” It was originally titled “Juno.”
We haven’t exactly exchanged friendship bracelets. I’ve run into him at a couple of writing conventions and swapped jokes with him between other writers and he became a personal hero and fan. He also picked up two days worth of bar tabs in Oklahoma City. The man is either an angel or a devil in disguise.
Last week, the Hollywood Reporter announced that a major movie production company with producers who have worked on films like Forrest Gump and The Devil Wears Prada bought the rights to his latest book with plans to turn it into a major motion picture, probably for more money than I’ll ever see unless I take a PR job with Satan.
Everybody else in my little e-mail writing circle was happy for him. They showered him with congratses and good lucks and well wishes, and he graciously accepted them with humor, grace and self-deprication. He deserved it. No one reads anymore since buttons were invented, and this only happens to one man once a generation. Humorists Dave Barry (Big Trouble), Jean Shepard (A Christmas Story), Robert Benchley (the Oscar-winning short How to Sleep) and Dan O’Brien (The Da Vinci Code) have had their books turned into some of the funniest movies ever committed to film.
I didn’t send him word one. Why should I? I’m not his equal. He won’t notice me. Besides, why give fuel to someone I should be trying to surpass? The rest of the day made me feel moody and irritable. Anything that could tick me off did and anyone who slightly got in my way got a cold callous pair of eyes staring back at them that wanted to jump out of my skull and tear their hearts out.
Envy didn’t make the deadly sin list because hate, murder and karaoke got promoted. Envy may not be able to stab, bankrupt or starve someone into death. Envy just lets you to do it to yourself. If you’re tearing someone down in order to pull yourself up, you’re still in the same place you started from and once they get down there, they can probably kick your ass.
That day, I didn’t need to fill my self-loathing envy quotient by going to a gym, endorsing a paycheck or trying to pick up a girl in a bar and getting rejected like a Joe Pesci 3-point shot.
I was already full of it.
Danny Gallagher is a freelance writer, humorist, reporter and crow taste tester living in Texas. His website is www.dannygallagher.net.